School of Archaeology & Anthropology, College of Arts & Social Sciences, Australian National University
Thursday All day, Plaza Level
The transition to food producing economies in mainland Southeast Asia occurred sometime between 4,500-4,000 BP with the best cemetery evidence for Neolithic communities occurring shortly after this in Thailand (e.g. Khok Phanomi Di) and Vietnam (e.g. An Son and Man Bac). Until recently Southeast Asian dental assemblages have been generally characterised as displaying low levels of caries and good oral health (see contributions by Oxenham and Tayles in particular). This paper questions this assertion for the earliest and best documented Neolithic sites in the region (e.g., caries rates by tooth count exceed 10% at all of these early sites). Poor levels of oral health ostensibly occur in the context of three enormously significant events: major demographic change (e.g., 15P5 values in excess of 0.25 indicating elevated fertility), changes in subsistence economies (earliest evidence for agriculture) and increases in mobility (e.g. large scale migration into the region). It is concluded, in contrast to the currently held consensus, that Southeast Asia displays a similar oral response to the initial emergence of the Neolithic seen in other regions of the globe.